Gang violence is on the rise in Metro Vancouver.
Speaking at a press conference Monday afternoon updating the media on the deadly Jan. 13 shooting on Broadway, Vancouver police Chief Adam Palmer said the region hasn’t seen this level of gang violence in more than a decade.
“I’ve been with the police department now into my 31st year, and I am a former gang officer when I was a detective, I’ll tell you that this cycle that we’re going through right now is significant,” Palmer said, adding that gang violence like this hasn’t been seen in Vancouver in the last 10 years.
“The last big wave was when the whole Bacon brothers Red Scorpion thing was happening and we’re definitely in an uptick in gang violence in Metro Vancouver right now,” Palmer said referring to the conflict between the Bacons’ Red Scorpion gang and rival United Nations gang.
“We’ve got several groups that are at odds with each other and they are going out and killing each other,” Palmer said. He added that the rivalries mostly revolve around drugs.
Innocent bystander 15-year-old Alfred Wong died Jan. 15, two days after the brazen shooting that also killed 23-year-old Kevin Whiteside.
Whiteside was known to police and had multiple convictions including ones for possession for the purpose of trafficking, assault with a weapon, breaking and entering, and possessing a firearm while prohibited. He was subject to a lifetime firearms ban. Palmer said Monday that he also had connections with gangs.
“I continue to say that Vancouver is a safe city and Metro Vancouver is a safe region in the world compared to many other places in the world, however we are not immune to violence and we do have several groups that are out there hunting one another down and killing each other,” Palmer said.
The chief said the department is currently targeting gang activity through other unrelated “projects” and said other recent investigations have led to arrests and charges.
In December, police announced the arrest of 34-year-old Derek Stephens. Stephens was arrested on Nov. 29 following a five-month-long investigation, dubbed Project Tactic, by the department’s organized crime section. He is facing 39 firearms-related charges. During the arrest, officers also seized guns, more than 1,200 rounds of ammunition, multiple high-capacity magazines, silencers, balaclavas, zap-straps, a Taser and handcuffs.
Earlier that month, Vancouver police and the Combined Forces Special Enforcement Unit of British Columbia (CFSEU-BC) announced a significant seizure of firearms, drugs, explosives and stolen property all related to organized crime groups.
And this past summer, the department announced the arrest of four known gang associates, as well as the seizure of a significant amount drugs and firearms.
Since May there have been nine separate incidents reported by police where shots were fired that were deemed to be targeted. In most of the cases no one was injured; however, a case earlier this month saw two men in their 20s injured after being shot in a parking lot in an industrial area in the city’s south end. And in May, 33-year-old Janice Nicole Bryant was killed in what police described as a targeted shooting.
Last year there were a total of 31 confirmed incidents of shots fired in the city. That’s up from 26 in 2016 and 11 in 2015. Overall, however, the number of shootings in Vancouver is down significantly over previous years — there were 93 in 2004, 95 in 2005, 83 in 2006 and 68 in 2007.